LACONIA — The Evangelical Baptist Church of Laconia's journey to its newly renovated 28,000 square foot campus in Lakeport was one of ''faith,vision and trust,'' according to David Provan, chairman of the church's building committee.
The journey was symbolically completed on the last Sunday in September with a dedication ceremony at which former Senior Pastor at the church, the Rev. Frank Accardy was one of the featured speakers. Provan credits Accardy with being the inspiration for starting the process which led to the move to the new church.
In a written narrative of the church's building program, Provan wrote that Accardy, who was with the church from 2002 through 2008, understood that the existing 8,300 square foot building, a Veterans Square landmark, limited the church's ability to fulfill its mission and in January 2004 a Needs Assessment Team was formed to evaluate the existing building.
The team was comprised of a mix of members of those who wanted to relocate and who those who favored renovating the Veterans Square church. The team completed its report in September 2005. Shortly thereafter the congregation voted almost unanimously to relocate.
The decision to move was not one which was taken lightly. Listed on the National Historic Register, the white structure so symbolic of early New England churches has been a familiar and beloved landmark in downtown Laconia ever since the construction by the Congregationalists in 1836. At that time, known as the North Church, it stood at the corner of Church and Main streets next to property later occupied by Gale Memorial Library which was built between 1901 and 1903.
Shortly thereafter, the Congregationalists built a new stone church across Pleasant Street and sold the wooden building to the First Christian Church (formerly known as The Peoples Church, now as Evangelical Baptist) which had the structure moved to its current location across from the railroad station.
Selling price of the old church was $1,000 ($600 for the building and $400 for the pipe organ). It cost another $1,999 to move it across the square to the new lot which cost $1,780. Transported on rollers, it went with everything intact. Nor was the building damaged many years later when the 179-foot steeple was destroyed in the 1938 hurricane, falling across the square and landing on the roof of the depot. The first Sunday service in the relocated and refurbished church took place on Jan. 2, 1904.
Provan said that as a result of the work of the Needs Assessment Team, improvements were made to the existing building, including installing a new heating system and a roof. The first capital campaign was launched in 2006 and the congregation of 155 pledged $650,000 toward a new church building.
A Building Team was formed and a potential new site was located in Laconia, but wetlands limited the amount of land which could be used and the decision was made to look for another site.
Pastor Accardy retired shortly after that and the building plan was put on hold until 2010 when the reconstituted Building Team began it efforts anew, concentrating primarily on existing buildings, including the former Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Church campus in Lakeport, which closed in August 2010.
The initial purchase price was $1.4 million, which included a worship center, classrooms, gym, an administration building, garage and three parking lots.
As the Building Team continued to negotiate and a second capital campaign raised $360,000 in April 2012, shortly before an agreement was reached to purchase the building for $680,000 in April of 2012.
Provan said that improvements were made shortly after the purchase to replace leaking roofing, and the Building Team worked to produce a vision for the newly acquired property.
When a water line broke in January 2013 in the gym building a group of church members went to work immediately to remove standing water from the floor, which proved to be beyond repair. Using a small bobcat was brought into the gym and used to break up the ruined floor. But the insurance company paid for all the damage to the building and the settlement money was used to replace the wood floor, again thanks to the efforts of volunteers from the church.
The Building Team was also able to save the gym addition with support systems designed by Leon Murray, a structural engineer who is the father-in-law of Pastor Dan Lyle, saving the church $400,000 it would have cost the church to demolish and replace the gym addition. That enabled the church to move worship services from Veterans Square to the gym in November 2013.
Provan wrote that Yasharian Construction was able to complete the first phase of the building program for about $641,000 and that, just as funds in the ''Pay-as-You-Go'' building program were about to run out this past February, the Veterans Square building was sold to the Holy Grail Restaurant, enabling the church complete the necessary work to hold its first service in the new Worship Center on Aug. 10 of this year.
Provan said that the church emerged from the first phase of its $1.4 million building program, which included the purchase of the church, debt-free.
He said that work still remains to be done, and that it will be completed by May of 2015, after which the congregation will live with the facility for several years while identifying future improvements which will need to be made.
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The Evangelical Baptist Church has competed the first phase of a $1.4 million building project, which included the $680,000 purchase price, of the former Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Church in Lakeport, and is now holding services at its new worship center. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)
there's also pix of dedication Sunday taken by Karen Bobotas.